I was watching the venerable Shirley Douglas on TV the other day.
You know the lady I mean. Daughter of Tommy Douglas, the father of Medicare. Ex-wife of that wonderful Canadian actor Donald Sutherland. Mother of young Kiefer Sutherland, who’s not a bad little actor himself, especially when he’s playing bad guys.
She was being interviewed by the not-so-venerable George with-the-Greek-name. Any time we see Shirley we perk up because we once spent a pleasant two or three hours with her in a bar. Currently she’s acting in the series “The Wind at Your Back.”
We were not happy with the interview because Sir George gave her very little time. He cut her off in the middle of a humorous anecdote about her and Gordon Pinsent.
A strong criticism I have of George, by the way, is that he gives his most interesting guests far too little time. It’s as though he’s afraid to get into anything really interesting in case he might get out of his depth and not know how to handle it.
Anyway, Shirley said something to George that I found more than interesting.
“I’ll soon be 80,” she said, “and I can’t wait!”
I was watching her face carefully, and she looked as though she meant it. I really don’t want to think of her with some kind of dementia, so the other option is to realize that she’s an accomplished actress. No one in his or her right mind is looking forward to being 80 years of age.
Of course, you might be glad when you get there, considering the alternative, but “can’t wait”? Not on your cotton-pickin’ life. You and I are parting company, there, Shirley old girl. But I have to say you’re looking really good for whatever age you’re at now.
I know I’ll get emails from those of you too stubborn to agree with me, proclaiming how much you’re looking forward to being 99. I hope you’ll say why. You’d fit right in with the three old fellows discussing their various infirmities.
“I can hardly see,” the first fellow said. “There’s no fun in being blind, I can tell you.”
“Not a lot of fun in being quadriplegic,” the second old guy added, “when you can’t move any of your limbs.”
“I’m as deaf as an adder,” the third said. “If I didn’t read lips I wouldn’t have a clue about what you’re all saying.”
“Look on the bright side,” said a third who was listening to the conversation. “You all still have your driver’s licences.”
The major problem I have with getting older doesn’t have much to do with health. I still have my teeth and most of my hair. As my grandson would say, “What more could a man ask?”
Actually, a great deal more, but there’s no point in going into detail. Those things have to do with my injury and not my health. The two are not at all the same. In fact, I don’t know if I’m sick or not. I have no feelings below my underarms so I could be dying of stomach ulcers and not know it.
I’d be really upset if I woke up some morning and found that I’d died overnight from something that I didn’t know I had. I’m sure you can relate.
I’m sure I’ve said it here at least once that my mother’s major problem in life, being healthy right up to the time she passed away at 93, was the way people treated her.
“I feel the same as I did when I was 20,” she said at one of her later birthdays, “but that everyone insists on treating me as if I were 90.”
I’m beginning to understand what she was talking about.
“You must be feeling very tired now,” someone will say around nine o’clock when there are visitors in our house. “Perhaps we should leave.”
When I protest that my time for going to sleep is never before 1 a.m., and usually closer to 2 a.m., and that’s before OH comes to bed, it becomes patently obvious they don’t believe us. Or if they do, they attach the missing time to the other end of the sleep period.
“So, what time do you get up the next day?” Notice it’s “day” and not “morning.”
“My worker comes in between eight and eight thirty,” I say nonchalantly, “and 0H is up at least 20 minutes before that.”
Which is the God’s truth, but I know no one believes us. We are old, you see. When I was in university my parents were in their late 40s. I thought that was ancient and probably treated them accordingly. Now younger people especially think that once you put a dent into the 70s, you’re all washed up. That’s if we older fellows wash at all.
Everyone knows what’s good for you, which wouldn’t be too bad if some people didn’t insist on making your decisions for you.
“Surely you’re not having another piece of salt meat!” And then they’ll delay passing you the platter with the salt meat on it in the vain hope that you’ll forget you asked for it.
”Surely you don’t want a drink at three o’clock in the afternoon!” It takes several times of asking before they give up and get the drink for you. Then I’ll feel like having two or three — no mix, no ice, thank you — just to be stubborn. (Being stubborn is expected of you at my age.)
I have a friend who has a father in his 90s in a seniors home. His family is not allowed to bring him in one of his beloved turr dinners because it may be too salty.
If at 90 I want to kill myself by eating Jiggs dinners as often as I can, that should be my own damn business.
There’s going to be ructions, my son.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.